The Seattle Times is running a special report on the prevalence of illegal marijuana growing operations in the state’s Indian reservations. With about 8,000 square miles of the state set aside for the 29 federal recognized tribes, the reservations provide serious cover for large scale marijuana crops.
It’s assumed that law enforcement hardly touch the massive amounts of pot that are likely growing in these areas. There simply aren’t enough law enforcement officers to patrol the entire area. The Yakama Reservation contains 2,000 square miles and only has 24 tribal officers patrolling it.
These areas are not wide open spaces either; we are talking about forests, hills, and otherwise treacherous land. In addition to being geographically challenging, the areas have restricted access (as sovereign nations), requiring tribal approval before they can be accessed by outside agencies.
Those being busted for the operations, however, are rarely tribe members as one might think. It’s suspected that the crops are linked to Mexican suppliers, though no concrete lines have been established. Last August a Mexican national was busted as he tended 8,850 plants. Though there isn’t any certain connection to any cartels, it’s unlikely he acted alone.
Tribal police have been working with outside agencies in an effort to eradicate the problem, but it seems to be an uphill battle. Washington ranked fourth in the nation in 2010 for outdoor marijuana growing, according to the DEA. Other states were also in the western area of the country simply because of their closeness to Mexico and the ideal growing climate.
The cost to the state is massive when the environmental damage is factored in. Because the growers are hiding their operations, they often run illegal water lines and spray pesticides that run off into local water sources. In addition, they have no reason to clean up after harvest, leaving the earth exposed. Some advocates have pointed at this destruction as yet another reason to support the all-out legalization of marijuana.
But, marijuana is not legal. And even in Washington where medical marijuana is allowed, law enforcement will enforce marijuana laws. Even a possession charge (if you have more than 40 grams) could be considered a felony offense.
If you are arrested for a marijuana offense, contact our attorneys today. Whether you caught a charge for growing or simply smoking—we may be able to help.